Lessons From Making a TV Pilot Part II: The Premiere
Editor's Note: You may have noticed we haven't posted in a couple of weeks. This is in large part to our primary blog editor helping Paul with the event to which this article refers, something that we were honored to assist in doing. Please watch the trailer, follow the project, and feel free to contact us if you'd like more information on how you can help in moving this forward.
Those of you who follow this blog, know this fine company I often work for, or who decided to click on the link my editor will inevitably attach to send you to this original post, are aware of the recent saga surrounding the production of a television pilot I wrote and directed. This past Wednesday (the 18th of March, for those of you in the distant future) was the night of its premiere. Overall, the experience was a bit of a blur. I clearly recall arriving at the Tribeca Cinemas to start preparing the venue and I remember the moment somebody put a nice, cool whiskey and soda in my hand at the nearby bar several hours later. But the intervening time was just a blend of nervousness, excitement, meeting important people whose names I worked really hard to remember, standing up to a lengthy Q&A session, and laughter (which was good, because the show's a comedy).
Even so, it was an incredible and enlightening night, in addition to being stressful. Seeing a culmination of nearly two years of work and a whole lot of hopes and dreams played out on the big screen in front of an audience was equal parts rewarding and nerve-wracking. Going into the evening I had lots of great support and advice, but there are definitely a few things I learned from the process that I wish I'd thought of beforehand. Things that, though I gained them via TV pilot screening, can apply to any time you have to stand in front of a crowd with something to say and/or show.
Recognize but accept imperfection. With any project, particularly one you have a strong personal stake in, there is a fine line one has to walk. On the one hand, you have to know what you want its final shape to be and work diligently towards that. On the other hand, there will always be more you can do, more fine-tuning that you can spend half of forever on. Even after months of editing, I sat there in the theater, looking at the screen and thinking about what take I maybe should have used or a line I wish I'd written. I found myself stressing about "should haves" even as the audience was laughing away. I was driving myself crazy over tiny things that were made moot by the fact that people were enjoying what they were seeing. Only about halfway through the screening did I realize how ridiculous I was being and relax. When you care about a project, you'll always wish you could do more with it, but don't let that desire turn into a mental quagmire.
Be proud but not prideful. Sure, humility is admirable, but don't overdo it. Whatever you're saying or presenting is yours, and having confidence in it is extremely important. Don't be afraid to let people know that your project is an accomplishment that is worth your time and theirs. That being said don't get cocky.
People want you to succeed. It's all too easy to look at a crowd, whatever the size, of faces watching you and start doubting what you've done. It's a common tendency to see an audience as unsympathetic, or even hostile, when you and/or your project are the ones under its scrutiny. But that audience is made up of people. People who are more than likely there because they want to be there. If you're giving a lecture or presentation, whoever's hearing it wants to enjoy it. If it's a product you're showcasing, whoever's seeing it wants to like what you have to say. Sure, there might be a few malcontents as there are in any large group, but the vast majority will be on your side from the start.
Whether it's a personal passion project or a simple slideshow in a tiny conference room, getting up and presenting anything can set ones heart aflutter in good and bad ways. And, just like in my case, you'll probably have plenty of advice coming your way from friends and supporters. But take my three pieces with the rest of it and, hopefully, it will make your own big day just a big easier to get through. Looking back at my whirlwind of a Wednesday, I'm sure that it would have still been a blur if I'd had these lessons in mind. But it probably would have been a slightly less gut-wrenching blur.
Paul Mooney is a contributing writer to Present Tense LLC. With a background of film, screenwriting, advertising, and a healthy dose of the Marine Corps he has many stories to share. He is a freelance writer and producer living in New York City. Follow some of his writing on Task & Purpose as well as some of his antics on Brocast News. Paul is also the writer and director for Vetted, a television comedy highlighting the follies of veterans transitioning in NYC, and edited the first Present Tense ebook.